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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  April 11, 2012 12:00am-12:30am EDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. a conversation with legend mikhail baryshnikov. he has enjoyed great success in both acting and photography. starting this week in los angeles, he stars in the u.s. premiere of the stage play "in paris." he will speak in his native russian language. we are glad you have joined us. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with
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your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: i'm delighted to welcome mikhail baryshnikov to this program. he is in los angeles this month before it his stage play "in paris." if you are in southern california from april 11 through the 21st, you can catch the production in santa monica.
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a preview. >> [speaking russian] tavis: there is so much to talk to you about. i am glad i have two nights. i do not know where to start. let me start by asking why, after all the years of your stage career, you have just now got around to speaking our
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native language. >> the director of this play, we got to know each other socially. he had not seen me i ought to in films -- actor in films or television. somehow, after a couple of years of the courtship and friendship, he said, i think i have a role for you. i knew the short story. he made me an offer i could not refuse. it is obviously one of the extraordinary gifted russian writers.
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a nobel laureate russian writer and that got this extraordinary achievement. he lived in paris after the civil war in russia. the story -- you know, my background, i felt i knew people like this character. a retired general in exile. my father was a military man, always be a military man.
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it is a classic adaptation come a very short story, at eight or 10 pages maximum. it is done in very simple, but a poetic way. it is a lot of movements. thederful actress i am playing with, she is a very well-known actor in russia. of course, it is in russian and it is french, the way it is written. things happening in paris in the early 1930's. in the midst of the winter, not a very friendly paris.
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he had been kicked out by the red prussian army. -- russian army. this general meets in a restaurant a beautiful young woman. she was waitressing. he notices that sheet -- he notices that she looks like she is from a good family. it is a poignant and arresting not love story which in some tragically. tavis: i asked earlier why so long to do something in your mother tongue. even though you speak russian fluently, whether or not it was easier than you thought or more difficult than you thought to act in your mother thanh.
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-- tongue. >> much easier, of course. it is a good question. i really found myself much more comfort. the fanatics, the way it's -- phonetics, the way it rolls off your tongue. english or spanish or any language i am trying to converse, its is a pleasure, i do not know why. it is a story keeps me awake. tavis: i have not seen the play yet. but what is the experience like
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for the audience to sit and watch a play in russian with subtitles? this is not a movie, obviously. >> the way it is done, the subtitles -- it is not like two screens here and there. you are trying to catch up. it is done in and an extraordinary creative wave. much of thet that text. he came to the theater, although he had an extraordinary pedigree, his father was a very famous director. his mother was a famous writer. and a theater critic. he took the last name of his
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mother. he started as a painter, and graduated to be a scenic designer. and then he started to direct. the first few productions received such extraordinary acclaim. he was able to show his work in festivals in europe and elsewhere. this is the first time he has shown his work in the done nodded states. he is known in russia -- he has shown his work in the united states. he is known in russia and he is very successful in some european festivals. tavis: i started reading about your back story. i have been a fan for years. the more i got into your back
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story, the more fascinating it was for me to learn some much about you. i did not know that when you first performed to years ago, when you first performed in paris, you arwere booed. do you recall this? >> in paris, yes. definitely. a very wonderful french choreographer, he passed away last year. you know, the french people are very flamboyant in their opinions. tavis: that is one word for it. that is a charitable read. >> there were two very famous
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choreographers. the fans booed -- plus, it was modern piece that was based on the queen of spades. a lot of people wanted to see a classical ballet. i was not booed directly. [laughter] i knew it was one of his best choreography. tavis: you are doing a stage play called "in paris." i was wondering what your
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relationship with paris has been all these years. >> it was favorably received. tavis: how have been known over the years, you have been so good for so long, but even the great have off nights. how have you known over the years when you did not deliver what the audience expected of you? when you were off your game, so to speak? >> it happens. sometimes wonderful golfers play and something goes wrong. look at what happened in the masters. yesterday.
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he said, i did not have my best game. sometimes, from day to day, no matter how well you prepare, something happens. something was wrong. something was wrong in preparation, or nerves, or too relaxed. booing, i had thein same experience the first time i worked with the american ballet theater. she did a piece where frank sinatra sings with his daughter. it was a little duets, it was a huge success in her career. but that first performance,
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instead of me dancing my bread and butter, so to speak, we worked for weeks with -- on this little duets. when we finished, we were booed. strange, unexpected. but that was not the first time. if you are not booed, you are doing something wrong. everybody loves what you are doing, there is something. i am not a choreographer. when people expressed their feelings that strongly, it is about the general conception of the peace.
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tavis: it is not the dancing. >> i do not think so. when opera die-hard fans, when there is a singer that -- when there is a replacement, they boo. hundreds of dollars for the ticket, you know. i think dance fans are more loyal. tavis: how does the artist not internalize that? or maybe the answer is to internalize it to make you better. >> it is never pleasant. he worked sometimes for weeks and weeks and weeks on a piece
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which was badly received. sometimes by the audience. you know, this is the moment you have to regroup and say, when i am on stage in this piece, this is the best piece ever in that very moment, i am trying to do even more than 100%. i know that choreographer is upset about it. it is never pleasant, of course. very few people say, i do not care. i believe everybody cares. when the work is questionable, you work through this kind of
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moment of a very unpleasant moments, and you finish up, and you decide whether to continue to work on the peace. sometimes they rework the piece and it becomes a success. he changed because today, i see this. there is nothing wrong with that. that the way it is. tavis: we have been having a conversation about your role as a dancer, as artist on the stage. what is the greatest rewards and the greatest challenge was of running a theater company?
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american ballet or one of the others. what has been a great reward of running a theater company and a great challenge for you during -- when you yourself are an artist? >> introducing a new generation of dancers to the theater. in your mind, you have already -- have a perception of what kind of dancer, what kind of statute, what kind of proportions. it is physical first. and then, if you really feel because they are auditioning to a dance company, at you know pretty much -- you see what is
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what. and then you meet people and you talk to them, what is their ambition. for some people, it is obviously being a dancer. some people have more potential, opportunity to grow. there are certain people who have potential to be a principal dancer. it is hard sometimes, people want to be in the company no matter what. some people, they ask you directly, do i have the potential? to be in new york classical company? no matter how young they are, sometimes you talk to their teacher, sometimes to their parents. you know, this young lady, at
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age 16 or 17, maybe should try to think to go to the lesser- known companies. and then she or he would have a better potential to succeed in some more like a boston or philadelphia, or san francisco or chicago. tavis: you can spot that that early in their lives? >> yes. tavis: wow. >> that is one of the challenges. or sometimes, these young people work for three, four, five years in new york. if you are talking about american ballet theater. and then they go elsewhere and become soloists and principal
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dancers elsewhere, europe sometimes, but mostly in the the states. it happens all the time. people from new york city ballet goes to san francisco or miami and start their own companies. dancers are quite mature people because they start to perform so early. they become professionals when they start to take every day classis. bister to perform sleeping -- they start to perform sleeping beauty and the nutcracker and you can start to see. that is one of the bigger
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challenge is that you have when you run the classical dance company. and then give them opportunities to dance, would you think is right -- which you think is right. i had the great tradition of american ballet theater choreography. great, a veterinary legacy of the company -- great extraordinary legacy of the company. i really wanted to show the company the best way.
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it was a controversial directorship, i would say. i made certain mistakes. all lot of personalities, some critics did not agree with certain directorial shifts. but i was a young man and i was still dancing. i put my career on the back shelf. it was a fascinating experience. tavis: i barely scratched the surface. so much more to talk to you about tomorrow night. i want to ask him why it classic american dance theater is still so segregated. i want to talk more about "in
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paris." if you are in the southern california area, you can see "in paris" in santa monica. until next time, keep the faith. ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ [applause] >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley
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at pbs.org. tavis:hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with mikhail baryshnikov. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs. >> be more. pbs.
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